Tabitha “Tab” Burris
Process Improvement Associate (Finishing)
Milliken & Company, Gaffney, S.C.
When did you start in the textile industry? August 2006
What is your background?
I started working in the medical field as a phlebotomist, but my family members who worked for Milliken spoke highly of the Milliken Magnolia plant and suggested I try out this career change if I was looking for a totally different opportunity. I applied and was welcomed to the plant with open arms. Since I’ve been at Magnolia, I have experience on five other machines in the facility.
What types of products does your company specifically produce and what types of end products are they used in?
The Magnolia plant produces flame-resistant fabrics for military uniforms. We also make materials that go into roof shingles to make them able to withstand Category 5 hurricane winds. Our polyester textiles are used for medical fabrics and graduation gowns.
What does your job mean to you, your family and your community?
My job means the world to me. It’s kept a roof over my head and allowed my family and me to live comfortably. At Magnolia, we have food supply drives, coat collections for local homeless shelters and always sponsor a Salvation Army Angel Tree to provide for local families during the holidays. The community takes great pride in its partnership with Milliken and knows we are a dependable resource when needed.
What is your role in producing PPE products or inputs for these products for your company?
I make sure that our customers are getting the best quality fabrics with no defects in our textiles produced for medical gowns.
How does it feel to have your company step up to address the PPE shortage during the pandemic?
I’m grateful we were able to keep running despite tough times when other manufacturing facilities had to close. It felt great to help produce fabrics for frontline workers in the medical field and first responders.
Why is it important for textiles to be made/cut and sewn and/or finished in America?
Our jobs in the U.S. directly affect our ability to have a home and provide for our families and that wouldn’t be possible without our textile production in America.
The Milliken Textile Division leveraged its materials science expertise to begin manufacturing much-needed barrier-protective PPE fabrics for affected medical, hospitality, education and other relevant industries during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization pivoted its resources, including research and testing teams, manufacturing facilities and nationwide sales force to accommodate the immediate needs across the country. As a result, Milliken has produced more than 10 million yards of reusable medical fabrics and distributed several million medical gowns. Today, Milliken continues its commitment to ensure a sustainable, U.S.-based PPE supply chain.
“Our team of scientists and developers is fully engaged, uncovering solutions to address critical medical and protective needs that our manufacturing teams relentlessly produce for those fighting on the front lines of this pandemic,” said Chad McAllister, president and EVP, Textile Division. “These brave medical workers have continued to care for us tirelessly, and we are committed to doing all we can to help keep them safe.”